By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Jeffries Fan Club
Saturday, Jan. 6
Journey with us now, won't you, on a trek up the 57 freeway, far beyond the hills that cradle Brea like a loving old granny to an off-ramp that leads to an avenue where All Your Dreams Come True. The natives call it Mission Boulevard. It's a storied land, festooned with exotic necessities that make life livable: tawdry porn shops, cheap taquerias, scary, exhaust-spewing defense-industry plants. And we can't leave out those mysterious, garbage-bag blobs that occasionally pop up along the Inland Empire's own Champs Elyssés, some which may or may not contain bodies.
Locals Only doesn't get beyond the OC/Long Beach axis much, so this special excursion was like an adventure-packed sojourn to the Amazon for us. And there is gold here, most notably in the burg's small-but-trying downtown arts colony, where the Glasshouse and a smattering of smaller clubs do business.
The reason for flying northward was, alas, a sad one: the last waltz of ska-purists Jeffries Fan Club, who—four years ago, we should note—was the first band Locals Only ever wrote about. We liked them then; we like them now. But there were no tears shed at this wake—just a massive, sold-out celebration of the life of a big, fun band (until things turned ugly at the end of that life with interband squabbling over issues of commitment and religion. Check out Alison M. Rosen's cover story, "What the Hell Is Happening to Jeffries Fan Club?" Jan. 5). Still, it was difficult to avoid the pungent aroma of sentimentality lingering in the air as the band pounded out all their semihits, near-great tunes that may never be heard on a stage again, like "12" and "Milk" and that song about how they'd rather be shot in the head than have to play emo. One of their last tunes was a poignant ballad that accompanied a slideshow that flashed overhead onto a big, white tarp—photos of JFC amongst friends, fans and family; tour pics; the standard here-I-am-peeing-by-the-side-of-the-road shots. But mostly they went out blazing in a long, sweaty set (almost two hours, by our watch) that induced many a "JFC! JFC!" chant from the crowd, as well as spurts of uninhibited body-twitching at the back of the room (one thing we won't miss about JFC shows: getting elbowed in the groin by hordes of pint-sized, flailing skanksters). By the last encore, the evening had evolved into a fine obituary for a group that got as big as maybe local bands really ought to get—before business and egos and other non-fun elements get in the way of art and creativity. And fun. RIP, JFC.
So infatuated were we by the sultry ambiance of Pomona that we simply had to return, this time for a four-bagger bill headlined by Athens, Georgia, (yes, they are friends of those guys) y'all-ternative trio Vigilantes of Love, who were much better and engaging than the last time we caught them, perhaps because the new album they're touring behind, Audible Sigh, is such a gem. Another lure was the incomparable Havalina Rail Co., which we've said enough about already—really, we are not stalking the band!
That left the bulk of the evening's attention devoted to Lenen, a good, solid OC rock band who top off their tunes with lots of large, sweeping choruses—stuff that drips "commercial potential," shall we say. Unfortunately, they think they have to look the part of a potentially commercial band, too—their fashion sense made them appear like any current, cookie-cutter MTV outfit, with lots of black clothes, spiky hair and tattoos.
So we averted our eyes while enjoying their short, radio-friendly songs and deeper-than-usual themes about longing and stuff, as well as their darn catchy melodies and hooks and all. The musical low point, though, was a cover of the Cars' "My Best Friend's Girl," which was only annoying because it seems like everybody's doing Cars covers now—hey, everybody, they really weren't that good.
Mule Davis were swell, too—a straight-ahead, rock four-piece that's much improved in the two years since we first heard them. They're armed with a superb, kick-butt drummer, a girl singer who shoved her voice up into these soaring, almost frighteningly-high, altitudes, and a body of songs that were tight, robust and groove-heavy (though perhaps a bit loud—quite a few people retreated to the lobby after their first couple of tunes, and it wasn't because the band was crap—they weren't). Oh—and they're also a pretty spiritual (i.e., "Christian") band as well, but that shouldn't matter to anybody as long as the music's good—which in this case, thank God—it was.
Send CDs, tapes and the all-important contact info to Locals Only, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.